What Student Leaders Think About the Future of Education

Student Voice

What Student Leaders Think About the Future of Education

By Sydney Johnson     Jan 4, 2019

What Student Leaders Think About the Future of Education

There’s a lot that goes into innovation efforts on campus—think curriculum design, technology training for instructors, and bureaucracy. But too often, a critical element is left out of the process: student voice.

EdSurge Independent was created in 2016 as a way to change that by providing college and university students a platform to share their ideas, concerns, excitement and frustrations with the way technology shapes teaching and learning in higher education. Each semester a new group of fellows, made up of students from across the globe, is selected and meets weekly via video chat to talk through their ideas, and later publishes those thoughts on an independently-run student blog hosted on Medium.

After two years, nine student cohorts have together created a library of articles and resources about what students are thinking about when it comes to innovation in higher education. So to help faculty, instructional designers and college leaders better understand what students have said since the program launched, a former cohort leader Rory Foulger, recently completed a comprehensive report highlighting the most popular topics and trends that have come up.

You can find the full report here, and a snapshot of highlights below.

Curriculum and Teaching

Curriculum and teaching is top of mind for students curious about educational technology, and this was the most frequent topic that students have written about about so far. These articles range from course content and pedagogy, to fostering an inclusive learning environment, and even extracurricular activities.

“Instead of viewing students as the problem, we should change our mindset and think about how we can build a learning environment that supports social, emotional and academic development for everyone,” wrote Jake Parrish, a 2017 fellow.

Several fellows also craved more learning experiences that reflected their everyday lives, whether that comes via more experiential learning opportunities or through bringing in personal histories to classrooms and curriculum. Other fellows expressed that “too much focus is placed on career preparation, missing opportunities for learning and personal development.”

Access and Equity

Across topics, students have raised questions and concerns around who has access to the benefits of technological innovation, and which students or groups are not being served.

Fellows explicitly called out the need for college leaders to do more to support and provide access to high-quality education to groups such as low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities and mental health issues, refugees, first-generation college students and women and non-binary students.

EdSurge Independent fellow Amanda Wahlstedt shared that these concerns start well before a student reaches a college campus. “When you attend a rural public high school like I did, no one explains to you that you are creating a resume that you will use when you apply to colleges,” she wrote. “Poor rural students cannot be expected to know what opportunities are available for us when we are often busy trying to survive.”

Outcomes, Testing and Grading

Which methods of assessment best measure learning and ability? Are standardized tests a fair gauge for predicting college success? Students debated the best ways for educators and course designers to build fair and valuable grading schemes, and many brought up their concerns over how the current model for testing and grading doesn’t work for all students.

Some fellows wrote about how outcomes scores for standardized testing can be a better reflection of family income than academic potential, how skills such as bilingualism and critical thinking can be overlooked in these high-stakes tests, and how pressure to perform well on these exams can have harmful effects on mental health.

Want to know more about what these students had to say? Download the full report here.


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